I have been on the AGRI Committee in Brussels since 2009. One of the recurring themes has been the duty of farmers to tackle ‘climate change’ which, in effect, means to improve the world’s weather. This involves facing up to some blatant EU policy contradictions which I will outline in this article.
At present we are uncertain if Defra Secretary Michael Gove wants to go down the same route and I have been trying to get an appointment with him since July.
The challenge for farmers is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There are five of these and apart from ozone, farmers produce the others in significant quantities. The best known is CO2, emitted by internal combustion engines. Therefore, tractor use in the EU must be reduced.
Soil cultivations are the obvious target and no-till techniques using GM technology and Glyphosate have a proven track record. However, the EU thoroughly disapproves of both innovations.
Ruminant livestock are the chief emitters of methane. We are told that this can be reduced if they consumed concentrates instead of grass. Even the EU sees the impossible expense of this, so it has suggested a breeding program - without the benefit of modern breeding techniques - to identify low methane emitting animals and breed only from them.
Even if this is actually possible, it will take many decades, so the only practical solution is to reduce numbers. These will be replaced by imported carcasses, whilst the EU keeps talking about encouraging young farmers and the fear of abandoned land.
Farmers produce nitrous oxide - not to be confused with the pollutant nitrogen dioxide. The chief ‘culprits’ here are leguminous plants such as peas, beans, clover and lucerne. The only apparent solution is to grow less of these crops.
However, the EU is also pushing farmers hard to grow more protein crops - most of which are leguminous - to reduce the heavy dependence on the thirty million tonnes of imported GM soya beans.
The dominant greenhouse gas in our atmosphere is water vapour. If action is not taken against it, then a campaign against the others will be utterly pointless. Farmers are ‘culprits ‘ here because their crops and grass transpire. So do the trees they have been encouraged to plant.
Extensive bare fallow and tree felling will tackle the problem, but aren’t crops and trees major absorbers of CO2? If green-tinged politicians are serious about using farmers to improve the world’s weather, then farmers must be trained in how to adjust and control solar cycles, lunar cycles, ocean currents, the earth’s wobble on its axis and glacial/interglacial interludes!
Brexit gives us the opportunity to allow our competitors to waste efforts on trying to control the weather, whilst we encourage our scientists to help mitigate the changes in climate that have always evolved over the centuries.